Revolving-door appointments go onThe tradition of revolving-door appointments has continued even as President Park Geun-hye pledged to end the practice of cronyism in bureaucracy in an emotional public address and rebuild a transparent and reliable government in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster. A series of controversial appointments brings into doubt the reliability of her strong words and promise to carry out reforms.
On the day Park delivered her televised speech, Lee Joong-hee, a secretary of civil affairs in the presidential office who resigned following the disaster, was rehired as a prosecutor at the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office and posted at a research arm. Lee quit the state prosecutors’ office to move to the presidential office under the current administration, and then returned to his previous profession.
Past governments also hired former prosecutors after having them resign first because of the law that prohibits active prosecutors from working in the presidential office.
Despite the law, the retirees all retained their old jobs once they left the Blue House or other government offices. President Park promised to bar prosecutors from working in other state agencies to ensure independence in investigations, but she broke that vow by hiring Lee, and again by returning him safely back to his previous work.
Appointments to the independent Korea Communications Standards Commission raised bigger uproar. Park Hyo-chong, ethics professor at Seoul National University who served as senior political adviser on the president’s transition team, was named to head the powerful agency on censorship. Hahm Gui-yong, a lawyer who was formerly a widely known prosecutor that specialized in espionage cases and national security violations, was also appointed as a new member. The two candidates are hardly deemed politically neutral, much less qualified to oversee broadcasting and online material with objectivity.
The opposition condemned the appointments as the presidential office’s maneuver to exercise influence over media coverage.
Park is contradicting and discrediting her own words by pledging strong action to end collusion, cronyism, revolving-door practices and other harmful old ways in the bureaucratic system, while doing the opposite with appointments. Reforms must be firm and without exception. The president has been advised numerous times that responsible appointments are the key to implementing reforms. So far we have seen no progress and seriously wonder if the presidential office is genuine on reforming.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 22, Page 34